Disney World TRON Coaster Transports Guests to the Gaming Grid

TRON Lightcycle / Run attraction at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom theme park expands video game lore.


It’s “Game On” at Walt Disney World Resort with the launch of TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom. This latest expansion of Disney’s video game-themed movie franchise offers a high-tech rollercoaster ride as well as a store filled with new merch, including some cool custom interactive action figures for fans.

Steven Miller, senior manager for corporate social responsibility with Walt Disney World External Affairs, is one of the biggest TRON fans working at the theme park.

“I was a child of the 1980s and I remember seeing the original TRON that came out in 1982 at the library and checking that VHS tape out again and again,” said Miller. “I wanted to be Kevin Flynn with my personal computer, which of course wasn’t plugged into the Internet and I couldn’t hack into the ENCOM system or any of that stuff. And from that I went to the arcade and discovered the TRON games from the original TRON to the Discs of TRON, I spent so many quarters playing those games.”

Now Miller had been able to ride alongside the original writer and director of TRON, Steven Lisberger, who recently visited Tomorrowland for the grand opening.

“TRON takes place after TRON: Legacy and Sam Flynn, the son of Kevin Flynn, has created these portals on the gaming grid,” explained Miller. “The first portal was created at Shanghai Disneyland and the second portal is here at Magic Kingdom. The idea is you, as a Team Blue user, are going to race against some of the most menacing programs on the grid - Team Orange, Team Red or Team Yellow. And it’s your job to race and collect the first eight energy gates before the other team.”

TRON Lightcycle / Run is the fastest coaster attraction in a Disney theme park, alongside its sister coaster at Shanghai Disneyland. It reaches 59 miles per hour across its 3,000 feet of track. Just to put that into perspective, Space Mountain, which is located right next door, tops out at 27 miles per hour.

It’s hard to miss the new expansion to Magic Kingdom, as its 10-acre footprint is the largest for the theme park since New Fantasyland debuted in 2012. The centerpiece of the attraction is the dramatic attraction canopy covers more than 50,000 square feet, reaches 105 feet high and features more than 1,200 lights.It took more than 3,800 pieces of steel weighing almost 1,900 tons to create the attraction.

There are two ways to experience the new ride. The easiest, but more expensive way, is to purchase a $20 Individual Lightning Lane pass and skip the line. The second free way is to register for the virtual queue for either 7am, 1pm or 6pm (for extended hours days) via the My Disney Experience app and then confirm a boarding number and receive a notification of when your party can head to the line. There’s no standby option on this ride so you do need to use the app.

The Tron jacket on a mannequin and a person.

Source: Disney

“Once guests are inside, they’re digitized onto the grid, where they meet a Siren who helps prepare them for the race,” said Missy Renard, creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Once they enter the sync chamber, they meet the menacing Team Orange before boarding their very own lightcycles and being launched onto the game grid via the upload conduit.”

The Lightcycle ride vehicle incorporates onboard audio and lighting. The urgent, moody musical score for the attraction was written by composer Joseph Trapanese and it takes cues and inspiration from the Legacy soundtrack.

The lightcycles mark a departure from other Disney coasters in that you sit on the bikes and lean forward with the safety restraint covering your back. There are several lightcycles located in front of the attraction for guests to test out the coaster in the real world. And you’ll see the glowing coasters as they rip through the canopy overhead. It’s definitely best to experience this ride in the evening to get the full effects of the lights.

“If I think about being lost in that world of TRON, we play games all the time,” said Miller. “I played so many arcade games. At Disney World we’re one giant place to play, and when I’m on TRON Lightcycle / Run I have that same experience of fun as I do when I’m playing video games.”

Fans of the TRON films, animated series and video games - including the new TRON: Identity game on Nintendo Switch and PC - will see plenty of Easter Eggs at this attraction.

“You’re going to see hexagons everywhere, which is a nod to the original architecture of the grid,” Miller said. “When you’re in the queue you’re going to see this giant replica of a Shiva laser, which is what Sam and Kevin use to be digitized and transported to the grid. When you’re in the Hall of Champions look for the Siren, they’re the ones who prepared Sam for the games in Legacy. When you see your Team Orange opponents look for Rinzler from Legacy. And the lightcycles themselves replicate that experience of Sam running and jumping onto the light cycles from the movie. The launch bay experience is unlike anything in the world. You feel like you’re digitized onto the grid with the music and the lights and the experience. You’re in the world of TRON.”

After experiencing the thrills of TRON, guests can check out a line of retro and cutting-edge merch.
“Our merchandise team worked closely with TRON: Legacy to create a collection that’s in the Tomorrowland Launch Depot, like jackets that light up, a Sam Flynn replica helmet, identity discs, a remote control lightcycle, action figures from the original film, Flynn’s Arcade shirts and hats,” said Miller. “There’s even an action figure where you can record your voice and have your facial expressions to become a program.”

TRON Identity Program

Multiple Tron character figures and a lightcycle.

Source: Disney

An evolution of the technology first introduced in Pandora: The World of Avatar with the ACE Avatar Maker, which turns humans into Na’Vi action figures, the TRON Identity Program offers guests a customizable “Program” action figure and identity chip ($90) that can be used to “re-program” other merchandise such as the interactive Identity Discs ($70) and Remote Control Lightcycles ($70). The final custom figure can interact with the remote control lightcycle, identity discs, Bluetooth speaker, and identity disc backpack.

The retail experience begins with an ENCOM employee card pulled straight from the film universe. Users enter a booth where they’re instructed to make three different facial poses, which are captured by the computer. They can then choose from four different helmet styles, seven team colors, and four body types ranging from bulky to athletic. The final customization is choosing six of the following 10 phrases to record with your voice, so that your action figure will not only look like you but also sound like you.

“Greetings User, See you on The Grid, Initiate Lightcycle Run, Assemble the team, Beware the Recognizer, I Fight for the Users, End of Line, Unidentified Users Detected, I’m not your average User, and End of Line.”

Once the pod opens again you’re instructed to come back in 90 minutes or later to pick up your toy. The pick-up stations are located outside of the booths. You once again scan your ENCOM card, and then step back to watch the computer extract your program from The Grid to our world, where you can pick up the box. One last finishing touch is that the figure comes in a custom TRON arcade cabinet box, perfect for displaying alongside other gaming collectibles.


John Gaudiosi has spent the past 30 years covering the video game industry for top international print, online and television outlets, including The Washington Post, The Hollywood Reporter, Fortune, and Playboy. He’s worked on both the business and consumer journalism angles over the years. He’s served as on-air gaming expert to NBC News and producer of several video game documentaries for The History Channel and Starz. John is a co-owner and contributor to Shacknews.com, which is the oldest video game site in the US.

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